And then, almost suddenly, we found ourselves on the boat to Stockholm. Even though we hadn’t set it as a goal, it still felt like we had achieved one while we watch the mainland grow smaller and smaller. We cycled from coast to coast. In the rain (it’s tropical in NL right now) we waved to Gdansk. Again, we had a good time there.
Besides being an old Hanseatic city with an eventful ancient history, Gdansk is also the heart of Solidarność. So we visited the European Centre Solidarnośći in the wharf where the first strikes took place. Where we thought we could remember quite a bit about (the founding of) Solidarność, the fall of the wall and thus the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain as a whole, it turned out that there was much more to say about it and, above all, to learn from it. What is special about the uprising/reform is that it was entirely non-violent. Solidarność was a collaboration between dock workers and intellectuals (including Lech Wałęsa – who laid down the strategy) and was supported by the Catholic Church and especially an active role of the Polish Pope John Paul II – would that explain the current position of the RC Church in Poland? It was extraordinary to see how the 3 principles: non-violence, demanding only realistic concessions and holding up a moral mirror to communist authority, set such a movement in motion.
With goosebumps, we reached the final hall where Solidarność was mentioned in the same breath as Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. So it is possible, non-violently achieving such great goals.
With this story fresh in our minds, it is difficult to focus on preparing for what awaits us in Scandinavia. We lay in bed for a while waiting for the sewer in our cabin to be unblocked only to wake up in the middle of the night to find the entire bathroom floor under water. It took a while but we got another cabin, all’s well that ends well. But despite the 18-hour crossing, we felt a little catapulted into a new world on arrival. Fortunately, the similarities (cycle/pedestrian paths combined on 1 pavement) proved at least as striking as the uncluttered layout of the road network. Again, we will find our way around.
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